18 Aug 2022

Psalm 23 in Martinů's Czech Rhapsody

We know that Czech protestants once sang the Genevan Psalms, as indicated in a psalter and hymnal dated 1900 which I purchased in Prague in 1976. This collection uses the Czech versifications of Jiří Strejc (1536-1599). I doubt they are still remembered today, as Czechia appears to be one of the least church-going countries in Europe. However, the composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) knew the tune for Psalm 23 well enough to quote it repeatedly in his Czech Rhapsody, which you can hear below:

17 Aug 2022

Psautier de Genève: blog

I found this blog via Twitter and thought I should link to it from my blog: Psautier de Genève. It is operated by Philippe Lacombe, who has posted an information page here: Qui je suis. Here is my translation of the page:

Married and father of two children, I studied Hebrew and Greek in pursuing distance courses at the Faculté Jean Calvin [Aix-en-Provence, France] for two and a half years.

It is with great interest that I took part in the digitization of the ancient translations of the Bible, notably the Ostervald version for its publication in 1996, and the versions of David Martin of 1707 and of Lausanne, which I posted online.

I am currently working on a new edition of the Bible in French under the direction of the Société Biblique Trinitaire [Trinitarian Bible Society].

As a lover of the Genevan Psalter, the collection of songs of the 150 Psalms translated at the beginning of the Reformation, I also digitized the 1729 version and added the musical parts.

Finally, I love to share short texts of protestant literature on my blog, Pensées 365, where you can find excerpts from sermons, meditations, and prayers for spiritual devotion.

2 Aug 2022

Psalmul 150 -- Psaltirea Franceză de la Geneva

This was posted on the Psalmii Cântați YouTube channel a year ago. It's a Romanian-language versification of Psalm 150 set to the Genevan tune, as arranged by The Psalm Project in the Netherlands. Sung by Anca, wife of Eugen Tămaș:

Psalmii Cântați

Yes, even the Christians of Romania, a largely Orthodox Christian country whose people speak a Romance language, sing metrical psalms. At right is a copy of their psalter, CÂNTĂRILE PSALMILOR, published by Editura Comorile Harului (Treasures of Grace Publishing), in 2000. As far as I can determine, it is made up largely of original texts set to verse by Traian Dorz and music composed by Nicolae Moldoveanu, famed church musician who, during the era of communist persecution, shared a prison cell with Richard Wurmbrand. This year marks the centenary of Modoveanu's birth. He died at a good old age in 2007.

Performances of these Psalms can be found at the YouTube channel, Psalmii Cântați, which was set up by Eugen Tămaș. Here is the description of the channel translated into English by Google:

1 Aug 2022

The Ecstatic Companionship Of The Psalms

I have been participating in a discussion on The Heidelblog below a post titled, The Ecstatic Companionship Of The Psalms. The post itself consists of a passage from Diarmaid MacCulloch's Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700 (Penguin, 2004), 307–09:

The metrical psalm was the perfect vehicle for turning the Protestant message into a mass movement capable of embracing the illiterate alongside the literate. What better than the very words of the Bible as sung by the hero-King David? The psalms were easily memorized, so that an incriminating printed text could rapidly be dispensed with. They were customarily sung in unison to a large range of dedicated tunes (newly composed, to emphasize the break with the religious past, in contrast to Martin Luther’s practice of reusing old church melodies which he loved). The words of a particular psalm could be associated with a particular melody; even to hum the tune spoke of the words of the psalm behind it, and was an act of Protestant subversion. A mood could be summoned up in an instant: Psalm 68 led a crowd into battle, Psalm 124 led to victory, Psalm 115 scorned dumb and blind idols and made the perfect accompaniment for smashing up church interiors. The psalms could be sung in worship or in the market-place; instantly they marked out the singer as a Protestant, and equally instantly united a Protestant crowd in ecstatic companionship just as the football chant does today on the stadium terraces. They were the common property of all, both men and women: women could not preach or rarely even lead prayer, but they could sing alongside their menfolk. To sing a psalm was a liberation—to break away from the mediation of priest or minister and to become a king alongside King David, talking directly to his God. It was perhaps significant that one of the distinctive features of French Catholic persecution in the 1540s had been that those who were about to be burned had their tongues cut out first.
The Heidelblog is the creation of R. Scott Clark.

22 Jul 2022

Psaume 2 en français

Psalm 2 sung in French according to the arrangements of Claude Goudimel and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.

21 Jul 2022

Hosea in the 1650

Along with the 150 Psalms, the Scottish Psalter of 1650 also contains 67 metrical paraphrases from elsewhere in the Scriptures. These have been a constant over the centuries, with the same number assigned to each paraphrase. Last sunday morning I heard a sermon preached on Hosea 6, and during the reading I immediately recalled to mind this versification of Hosea 6:1-4, which is numbered 30 in the Scottish Psalter:

Here are the words as found in my split-leaf psalter, but with the suggested tune of KILMARNOCK. Click on it to enlarge it.

Addendum: It seems that the scripture paraphrases were added to the Psalter only in 1781 and are not original to the 1650. I have a copy dated 1788 containing the paraphrases in addition to the Psalms. My copy was published only seven years after the addition of the scripture paraphrases to the collection.

19 Jul 2022

Psalmul 42 cantat in romana

In Romania one is far more likely to hear the Genevan Psalms sung in the Hungarian language, but here is Psalm 42 sung beautifully in Romanian.

18 Jul 2022

Psalm 24: Scottish metrical version

We used to sing this version of Psalm 24 in our church, especially on sundays when the Lord's Supper was celebrated:

1 Jul 2022

Los Salmos en rima española, 2

This revised collection comes in a paperback form with a deep burgundy cover. Unlike the first edition, it contains all the melodies as well as the texts which makes for a thicker volume running to just over 300 pages. The layout looks like this:

29 Jun 2022

Los Salmos en rima española, 1

I have just received the new edition of a Spanish-language version of the Genevan Psalter, titled Los Salmos en rima española. This is a collection of metrical psalms set to verse by Jorge Ruiz Ortiz according to the melodies of the Genevan Psalter. This volume replaces an earlier version of the collection published by Faro de Gracia in 2010.

Here is the author's preface translated into English:

It has been thirteen years since the completion of the first version of the Psalter (Los Salmos metrificados en lengua castellana), and eleven since its publication. During this time, in which we have learnt to sing these texts with the music of the Genevan Psalter, we have been able to see in which places they could be improved, and this in two ways: on the one hand, to facilitate singing, and, on the other, above all to make them more faithful to the biblical text.

28 Jun 2022

John Croke's Psalter

The British Library recently posted this item and description on its Facebook page:

In the 16th century, it was fashionable for rich women to wear tiny books hanging from their belts or ‘girdles’. This girdle book is bound in gold and black enamel. When opened it reveals a portrait of Henry VIII and is rumoured to have belonged to his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

The portrait of Henry is charming with smiling cherry lips and sparkling blue eyes. However, there’s no reference to the painting before 1849. Plus it looks nothing like Tudor portraiture – where’s Henry’s glare and pale skin?

An 18th century bookseller, Robert Triphook, mixed up our book with one Anne Boleyn gave to the Wyatt family, which had similar golden covers. The portrait was likely added late to add authority to the claim. So if not Anne Boleyn - who actually owned this book? There is one clue.

Each page contains Psalms translated into English verse. These translations exist in only one other copy – created by John Croke (d.1554), who dedicated the work to his wife. As both manuscripts are written in Croke’s own handwriting, the most likely recipient of both volumes was Prudence Croke.

The book is very likely this one accessible online: Thirteen Psalms and the First Chapter of Ecclesiastes Translated into English Verse by John Croke.

20 Jun 2022

The Lutheran connection

In the 16th century, the Reformation took more than one path in its efforts to reform the western catholic church. Two of these streams are the Lutheran and the continental Reformed, which went their separate ways over the sacraments. At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, while the Ottoman Turks were besieging Vienna nearly 800 kilometers to the east, Luther defended the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper against Ulrich Zwingli, who asserted that Christ's body was at the right hand of God following his ascension and thus could not be physically present in the sacrament.

Besides their confessional differences, the Lutheran and Reformed also differed liturgically. Luther was content to translate the existing Roman rite of the Mass into German with modifications intended to purge it of its mediaeval accretions. The Reformed, by contrast, sought to recover a lost liturgical heritage as indicated in the title of the 1542 edition of the Genevan Psalter published in Geneva: La forme des prières et chantz ecclésiastiques: avec la manière d'administrer les sacremens, & consacrer le mariage : selon la coustume de l'Église ancienne. Note especially that last phrase, "according to the custom of the ancient Church." The Reformed sought a more thorough reworking of the liturgy in accordance with God's word and what they knew (or thought they knew) of early church usages, while Luther's followers were willing to retain what they deemed to be of value in the existing rites.

6 Jun 2022

The Meeter Center's 40th anniversary Psalmfest

This event has now been posted on the Meeter Center's YouTube channel. I was pleased to participate by leading the reading of Psalm 98 at 58:46.

2 Jun 2022

Meletios Kashinda: Psalm 136 (LXX 135)

Here is Meletios Kashinda singing Psalm 135 (136, according to Hebrew numbering). It is rather extraordinary to find an African with an excellent grasp of the Greek language and a mastery of the Byzantine chant tones. And what a powerful voice!

1 Jun 2022

The Psalm 'outside the number'

Holy Transfiguration Monastery

My recent post about the Qumran tradition of Davidic authorship is a reminder that not all of the psalm literature of the ancient Israelites made into the canonical Psalter we know from our bibles. In the Orthodox tradition, we find an extra psalm in some manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint which is described as "outside the number" (εξωθεν του αριθμου) of the 150 Psalms. It is sometimes referred to as Psalm 151 and is labelled thus in the New Oxford Annotated Bible. Here it is in the New Revised Standard Version:

This psalm is ascribed to David as his own composition (though it is outside the number), after he had fought in single combat with Goliath.

1    I was small among my brothers,
and the youngest in my father’s house;
I tended my father’s sheep.
2    My hands made a harp;
my fingers fashioned a lyre.
3    And who will tell my Lord?
The Lord himself; it is he who hears.
4    It was he who sent his messenger
and took me from my father’s sheep,
and anointed me with his anointing oil.
5    My brothers were handsome and tall,
but the Lord was not pleased with them.
6    I went out to meet the Philistine,
and he cursed me by his idols.
7    But I drew his own sword;
I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

As far as I know, no one has attempted to set this to metred verse, but it is included in Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter with an appropriate chant tone.

30 May 2022

How many Psalms of David? Qumran's answer

The entire canonical collection making up the biblical Psalter claims in some fashion the authorship of David, the revered king and founder of the Judahite dynasty that would eventually give us Jesus Christ, "great David's greater Son." This suggests, not that David literally composed every Psalm, many of which (for example, 79, 80, and 137) address conditions and events long after his death. It suggests rather that he initiated the project of creating a collection of hymns for God's people which continued for centuries afterwards until the exile and possibly later.

One of the texts uncovered at Qumran (11Q5/11QPsa) asserts that David wrote many more psalms than those that would come to be included in the Bible:

27 May 2022

Sweelinck: The Complete Psalms

The Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) composed arrangements for all 150 of the Genevan Psalm tunes. The Gesualdo Consort has posted many of these on its YouTube channel: Sweelinck: The Complete Psalms. Here is one of those arrangements of Psalm 92 below:

Released last year, the recording is available from iTunes, Amazon.com, and the usual online vendors.

25 May 2022

Salmo 23 Salterio de Ginebra en Español

Salmo 23 Salterio de Ginebra en Español:


Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter

Several years ago I obtained a copy of Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter, containing all 150 Psalms set to chant tones along with additional material. It's a beautifully laid-out volume enabling us to sing the Psalms in a particularly ancient way. I've discovered a YouTube channel that features Sarah James singing all of the Psalms in this collection: Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter. Here is the first Psalm below: